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There are several ways to have your body composition
tested, but some methods are better than others. You can buy a hand-held devices or step-on scales that use bioelectrical impedance. The results from this can vary greatly depending on hydration, exercise, etc. Skin folds measured by a professional with skin fold
calipers can be accurate if the tester knows what he/she is doing. However, if the test subject has a lot of excess body fat, this can lead to inaccurate skinfolds and results. A BodPod uses air displacement to measure body fat and is considered an affordable, non-invasive method for accurate body comp testing. Another alternative is having a DEXA scan
, which not only measures body fat, but also bone density. A DEXA scan is considered the gold standard because it measures both visceral and subcutaneous fat
, but it can be expensive.
According to my BodPod results sheet I got last April, I’m considered “lean”. My body fat percentage was 21.3%. In May, my husband took my skin folds and that test showed that my body composition was about 22%. Finally, in August, I had a DEXA scan and it showed that my body fat percentage
was right around 23%.
Since a DEXA tests all body fat – both subcutaneous (below the skin) and visceral (internal/around the organs), the results tend to be quite a bit higher than the other methods. I was pleased with the results because it showed that I don’t have very much visceral fat
- the kind of fat that surrounds the internal organs and can lead to health complications. I carry most of my excess body fat in my hips. Another benefit of having a DEXA is that I know that my bone density is very good – even though I don’t drink milk or take a calcium supplement! I have strong bones due to lifting weights!
So, what are the recommendations for men and women? According to the company that makes the BodPod . . .
For Men. . .
Risky (high) > 30%
Excess Fat 21-30%
Moderately Lean 13-20%
Ultra Lean 5-8%
Risky (low) <5%
For Women . . .
Risky (high) > 40%
Excess Fat 31-40%
Moderately Lean 23-30%
Ultra Lean 15-18%
Risky (low) < 15%
So, what does all this mean? Obviously, too much body fat can pose serious health risks . . . Acceptable and realistic ranges for most people would be in the “Moderately Lean” and “Lean” categories. Someone in the “Ultra Lean” category is generall someone who is an elite level athlete.
For most of my adult life, I’ve been in the upper 20′s to lower 30′s. . . I’d guess my body fat percentage in August of 2009 was well over 30%. Yikes! I was out of shape, flabby, and terribly unfit. After several months of hard training, heavy training, and healthy eating, my body fat is now in the low 20′s. Amazing!
Just one more reason why you need to eat right and lift weights. What are you waiting for?